Today's post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

This coming Sunday's 2021 Super Bowl, like so much of life these days, is going to be unlike anything we've ever experienced. Played in a stadium filled only to about one third it's capacity and largely by vaccinated healthcare workers, it's another example of those annual events we think of as permanent and inevitable that this Pandemic has shown us are anything but.

I, for one, am glad that the show will go on in some capacity. I'm a lifelong Eagles fan, so don't have strong feelings about the Brady/Mahomes showdown, but I know I'll enjoy watching the game and the ads that accompany it each year which will also, understandably, look quite different from past years.

Another Super Bowl tradition we are keeping alive this year is our annual Workforce Institute Super Bowl survey about how many people are planning to be absent from work the day after The Super Bowl. This is a survey that we have run periodically since The Workforce Institute was formed in 2007 (it actually started two years before that by Kronos). This survey was always meant to be a fun way (speculating about how many people would overdo it on wings and frosty beverages and decide to call into work the next day) to elevate an important issue: unplanned absenteeism.

While some unplanned absences - when an employer isn't given advance notice that an employee will be out - are unavoidable (real sick days, many personal days), they can be much more disruptive and costly to organizations than planned absences, so the idea is to avoid them when possible. This means making sure that employees feel comfortable taking time off when they want to or need to, and there's a lot organizations can do to foster this: open communication between managers and employees, a clear time off policy, and creating a culture where employees feel empowered and encouraged to take care of their own mental and physical health before anything else.

So, what did this year's survey show?

When it comes to the issue of unplanned absenteeism:

New this year (and hopefully for this year only!), we looked at the issue of dangers around getting together to watch the game in person during a pandemic:

Bottom line? I'd encourage employers to take this week to communicate openly and honestly with employees about their Super Bowl plans. Let your employees know that you recognize how hard they have been working and what a stressful time this has been for everyone. If they want to take Monday off, help them make that happen if at all possible. Encourage them to join the majority of folks from our survey who plan to celebrate safely - at home with their household or outdoors in a socially-distanced way with friends. Most importantly, make sure they know they can be honest with you about what they actually do, so that you can ensure that risky behavior off the clock will not put coworkers, customers, or communities at risk when they're back on the clock.

Will you plan to take the Monday after the Super Bowl off? What do you think employers should do to encourage transparency with employees when it comes to taking time off? Tell us about it in the comments section.

Today's post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute.

Every year about this time, Super Bowl fever starts to grip the nation. Here in Massachusetts - or Patriots Nation as it's known locally - fans are so sure the Patriots will be in the big game that it feels like a big failure when they are not. Even for somebody like me who doesn't otherwise follow football, the big game is exciting. Getting together to watch the game (or half time show and commercials for me) is a fun ritual. Everything about the Super Bowl is excessive, including the party snacks, drinks, and lost sleep

Lots of people here and around the country will miss work due to the after affects of their Sunday evening revelry. Our newest research tells us that an estimated 17.2 million American workers say they may not go to work the Monday after Super Bowl LIII. Nearly 22 million employees may go into work late, leave early, or work remotely/from home on Monday. There are a number of additional interesting nuggets in this research:

Perhaps you feel this absence challenge is inevitable for employers, but there are things you can do to mitigate the impact of the pigskin on your work environment. Below, we've collected some of our favorite advice and resources to help you manage that post-game slump, beginning long before the game. Read on and enjoy the Big Game on Sunday!

This post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute.

During the holiday shopping season, retailers are more dependent than ever on their workers as they service harried customers.  If those customers are venturing into stores rather than shopping online, they expect to find staff who are available, willing and able to help them.  Unfortunately, that help can be hard to come by when store managers find themselves shorthanded due to employee absenteeism and turnover.

According to our most recent retail research, 47% of retail managers believe that absenteeism has a significant impact on customer satisfaction while 42% believe that it negatively impacts their store revenue.  We also found that more than half of retailers worldwide (52 percent) see a direct correlation between poor employee engagement and increased staff turnover

This recent study "What Came First: Retail Absenteeism or Low Engagement?" is the second installment of our Global Retail Absence survey.  The first installment examined the impact of absenteeism on store operations while this installment looks at the impact of absenteeism on employee morale and engagement.  

Our respondents indicate that they understand that employees who are happier with their work conditions - especially when it comes to flexibility - are more likely to cover their shifts and less likely to leave for greener pastures.  Successful retailers understand that they need to treat their employees with trust, and support their need for flexibility with policies and tools that enable them to easily manage their schedules, including self service options to change their schedules and swap shifts as needed.  

 You can read the detailed findings of the research below

Unplanned absence and poor engagement fuel chaos, drive turnover.

Employee engagement can drive - or degrade - store success.

Shift-swap technology can solve absence woes, yet only half of retailers use it effectively.

Today's post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos.

According to a recent survey of 800 retail managers across multiple countries we conducted with our research partner Coleman Parkes,  for every 10 hours of in-store labor budgeted, more than one hour is wasted due to staffing misalignment caused by unplanned employee absence.  We've written a lot about the impact of absence on business in the past, but not with this focus on retailers.  As the holiday season looms, in this climate of record low unemployment, retailers are more concerned than ever about finding and keeping the right person in the right place at the right time.

We analyzed the responses of retail managers across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. to examine the broad impact of absenteeism on retail organizations with more than 1,000 employees. According to more than half of retail managers worldwide (52 percent), absenteeism is one of their organization's most difficult, complex, and time-consuming issues.

I sat down with our board member Mark Wales, a long time veteran of the retail industry, to talk about some of the key findings of this research.  Mark  has more than 30 years of experience in the US, Europe, and Asia with leading retailers such as Starbucks, Ralph Lauren, Williams-Sonoma, Selfridges, and Tesco, where he has focused on implementing workforce management strategies and solutions to drive company performance and customer experience by investing in the retail employee experience.

You can listen to a podcast of our conversation at the bottom of this post.  We discuss key findings of the research and Mark's recommendations about why these issues occur and what store executives and managers can do to improve their planning for and response to staffing issues.

In the podcast, I posed the following questions to Mark:

  1.  More than half of global retail managers (52 percent) say unplanned absence is one of their organization's most difficult, complex, and time-consuming issues. Did that number surprise you in any way - or was this your experience working in the field?
  2. For every 10 hours of in-store labor budgeted, more than one hour is wasted due to staffing misalignment caused by unplanned employee absence. In fact, retailers are understaffed 25 percent of the time thanks to last-minute absenteeism. Why do you think retailers have been unable to address this issue effectively?
  3. Our survey also found that nearly half of retailers worldwide (48 percent) find it challenging to deal with administrative issues resulting from associates working additional shifts and/or incurring overtime to cover unplanned absence, and 42 percent feel a big impact on labor costs. Why do you think this is such a headache for retailers?
  4. I'd love to get your point of view on the practice of over-scheduling: our research found that the vast majority of retail organizations (88 percent) proactively over-schedule additional labor each day to cover for anticipated absences. This is most common in France (95 percent), the U.S. (89 percent), and Germany (88 percent). Why has over-scheduling become the norm - and how can retailers better ensure the right level of staffing?  And to what extent do you think this is data driven vs. store managers' individual assessments of their needs?
  5. We also saw that while most schedules are posted 1-2 weeks in advance, 86% are amended to some degree after they are published.  What can retailers do differently to balance their needs for effective schedules with their employees' needs for predictable hours?

Click on the player below to hear Mark's answers:

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

Here comes Super Bowl LII.  The New England Patriots will meet the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis on February 4th.  And if our prior research continues to hold true, millions of people will call in sick on Monday morning.   This research revealed that  one in 10 U.S. workers said they might not go to work on Monday because of the Super Bowl - a potential loss of 16.5 million people on Monday morning - and another 7.5 million said they may show up late to work.  Whether they are victims of too many nachos, or angst over the outcome of the game, their absence will be a problem for their employers.

We know that at lot of these folks won't have given their employers a heads up in advance of an early morning message on Monday. These unplanned absences have more negative effects on organizations compared to planned absences, including creating additional workload for others, disrupting the work of co-workers, and increasing stress.  Not to mention hard costs like overtime that may need to be incurred to maintain productivity.

I asked our board members Sharlyn Lauby and John Hollon to join me in a conversation about how organizations can manage through the potential workplace disruptions of major public events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics.  Sharlyn is the President of ITM Group Inc., and is well-known for her well-read blog, HR Bartender. John Hollon is an editor at, an adjunct professor in the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton, and a well-known blogger in his own right at The Skeptical Guy.

Big shared events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics are not just productivity sapping distractions and drivers of employee absence.  They can present a great opportunity for organizations to encourage camaraderie and friendly competition in the workplace.

Listen in on our conversation below to learn from these two pros how to reduce the risk of unplanned absences while capitalizing on the opportunity to boost your employee experience:

Play a recording of our conversation here:

Photo by David Straight on Unsplash

employeeburnoutWe had a very engaging tweet chat today regarding employee burnout and fatigue in the workplace. A number of thought leaders weighed in on how burnout affects employees and their employers; best practices on how to help prevent employee burnout/fatigue; how technology plays a role; and more.

You can view the entire tweet chat below (as well as here), or search via #KronosChat on Twitter. We'd love to know what you think about this topic - tweet us using #KronosChat, or comment below to share your thoughts.

World Cup popcornToday, Team USA lost to Germany in the World Cup, but still advances to the knockout round.  Whether the US advances any further remains to be seen, but lots of employees worldwide will continue to follow these matches with interest, including during work hours. Employers will ignore the potential workplace disruption of the World Cup and other summertime distractions at their peril.  We know the summertime crunch is one of the peak seasons for unplanned absences - those absences that have the highest impact on workplace productivity.

If you'd like help thinking about how to mitigate the impact of unplanned absences in your organization this summer, read on for our advice about how to balance employees' need for time off with the demands of your business.

  1. Implement an absence policy. If you do not have one already, an absence policy to balance employee and employer needs is the first step in addressing the potential problem.
  2. Communicate the policy. There's little point in having an absence policy if you do not communicate it to employees. Highlight any specific rules around time-off requests during the World Cup.
  3. Encourage proactive communications between managers and staff about requests to take time off, or to work a different schedule.  Unplanned absences are more expensive to manage than those you know are coming.
  4. Support flexibility.  Consider early starts and early finishes for 5:00 p.m. kick-offs and late starts/late finishes for staff who want to sleep in after a big game. But make sure that you have a system in place to cope with monitoring the flex hours.
  5. Consider unpaid leave. Planned absence is always easier for a business to manage than unscheduled absence. Accept that staff will find a way to watch key matches - unplanned absence is expected to be high during the World Cup. Offer staff the opportunity to book unpaid leave up to a maximum number of days.
  6. Make controlling absenteeism a business priority. There's no excuse not to be in control of absence. Business tools are available to control and monitor absence levels and trends - you can even set the parameters to alert you to all unscheduled absences on match days, or on the morning after a big game.
  7. Enforce the absence policy. Any absence policy needs to be monitored and enforced consistently and fairly throughout the organization to curb unscheduled absences - more than half of employed adults believe that their work performance is negatively impacted when attendance policies are not fairly enforced.
  8. Provide incentives for excellent attendance. In large organizations, time and attendance systems are an invaluable tool for tracking and reporting on attendance levels. Many organizations effectively use perfect attendance bonuses as an incentive to reduce absenteeism.
  9. Be realistic. Rather than hindering staff enthusiasm over the World Cup, go with it - install a TV in the staff room; sit down and enjoy the matches with your staff - and with a bit of luck, you'll improve staff morale for long after the ref blows the final whistle. The picture above was from the Kronos cafeteria today where the game was on the big screens, and free popcorn was available for all while we enjoyed the game together.
  10. Make absence management part of your long-term business plan. Managing absenteeism isn't simply a tactical activity for the duration of the World Cup. Organizations can benefit from a well-designed, consistently monitored absence policy.


Boston is awash in Red Sox fever today after last night's stunning win at Fenway.  My colleagues and I are remarking on how light the traffic was this morning coming in to work.  The sports hooky survey we did last year indicates that 11% of Americans will admit to having skipped work to watch a sporting event or to recover from staying out late after having watched one.  It certainly seems like a lot more than 11% of my fellow commuters are taking it easy this morning.

What about you?  Do you think the World Series had any impact on your commute or your productivity today?


Though I possess no sports fan genes whatsoever, even I know we're in the midst of March Madness.  Everybody's making their picks and excited about the outcome of the tournament.  (Is that what you even call it?)

I, on the other hand, am struggling with March Malaise.  The snow and rain just keep coming.  You've heard  that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  If this source is correct, the origin of the expression comes from the stars.  Specifically, March begins as the Constellation Leo is crossing toward the meridian. Leo is the Lion. As Leo marches away, the Constellation Aries begins to rise toward the end of the month. Aries is the ram."

Hmmm, this weather certainly feels more ram-y, then lamb-y to me.  And on top of that, we don't have another federal holiday until Memorial Day weekend - another nine weeks away.  In Punxsutawney,  they're even suing groundhog Phil in over his inaccurate forecast of the arrival of spring.  I predict the first day the temperature goes above 60 degrees here in Massachusetts, we're going to have a lot of desperate people suddenly "coming down with something".

If you're despairing of ever seeing the sun again, perhaps you can put your agitation to good use and peruse the following...

Turn the Big Game Into a Reason to Come to Work - Friday Distraction:

Ten Apps to Increase Your HR Work Productivity:

How Should We Measure Clouds?:

To Build Trust in Cloud Engagements, Ask These 3 Questions:

Companies Turning to Tools to Manage Contingent Labor:

Play or Pay with Obamacare:

Against the collaborative workspace:

Is Leading While Learning Really Effective via @hrbartender

Look For Employees With High EQ Over IQ via @Forbes

5 Reasons Telecommuting Is Still Beneficial To Your Employees via @blogging4jobs

Why Hopeful Employees Are 14% More Productive via @HPGoodNews

Pushing the Boundaries of the Workplace via @nytimes

5 Easy Ways To Motivate - And Demotivate - Employees via @Forbes

The True Power of Treating Employees Right? Customers Will Benefit, Too via @TLNT_com

RT @mikewcassidy: More evidence that analytics drives better decision making and financial performance. #kronos

Whose Job Is It To Help the Bad Fits? via @Conferenceboard

Kronites are writing about:

New Time Well Spent #Cartoon: #ACA #AffordableCareAct

Real Time Information - Are you ready? via @simonmacpherson @KronosUK

The Madness of Lost Productivity via @SmarterCafe #marchmadness

RT @Jacquifenn: Retail Week Live 2013 - review of the event by @andrewbusby

Talking with @williamtincup and @sharlyn_lauby (@hrbartender) about #mobile workforce management via @WF_Institute

Did you know we can test your Kronos system to figure out its stress level & help prevent system failure & data loss?

Join Me For Leading Workforce Management Event via @simonmacpherson @KronosUK #KronosLive

RT @SmarterCafe: #NASA rover #Curiosity a-bandoned and a-scared on #Mars. Needs a software update.

RT @smartercafe: #Bigdata or small, your workforce data can save you BIG. #Kronos

@ClemsonNews Adds More Innovation in Workforce Management with @kronos

RT @KronosUKRetail: Join us at #KronosLive EMEA! Sessions include how #bigdata & #analytics are shaping the future:

Pay or play? Determining your company's best solution to the #AffordableCareAct #ACA:

#KronosLive 2013: You're invited to a FREE local customer event! Register now:

Interested in speaking at #KronosWorks13? Speakers receive complimentary conference registration! Sign up now:

Kronos Survey Reveals Nurse Fatigue is Pervasive in Healthcare & Directly Linked to On-the-Job Errors #AONE2013

Live Demo: Workforce Ready Time & Attendance Tuesdays 1-2pm ET.

#Kronos Tips & Tricks! See what's new in KnowledgePass:

Taking the Kronos Cloud Tour: FREE. Value of taking it: PRICELESS. #cloud #KronosCloud

Experience Workforce Innovation That Works at #KronosLive 2013

The flu pandemic continues to be a hot topic with devastating economic impacts according to Reuters.  When I was stricken recently, I benefited from paid sick time during the several days I was too sick to work and telecommuting as I recovered. For many workers, though, there is no paid sick time.  In the US, there are no federal legal requirements for paid sick time, though many employers offer this benefit to be competitive in the market for workers.

Our recent 2013 Sick at Work survey showed that the majority of hourly employees - 53 percent - are not paid when they are out sick.  It's interesting, though, that the issue of losing wages isn't the top factor people considered when making the decision about staying home.   According to the survey, when faced with the decision of whether to stay home or go to work when they are sick, the top 3 factors that hourly employees considered were: 1. “I don't want to pass my sickness onto my co-workers” (54 percent); 2. “My health comes first - I stay home when I am sick” (49 percent); and “If I don't report to work, I don't get paid” (39 percent).  Assuming everybody's being forthright on the survey, it's encouraging to think that the golden rule is trumping personal financial sacrifices associated with lost wages.  In a perfect world, though, people wouldn't have to make the tough choice between getting paid and doing the right thing for their health and that of their coworkers.  Check out this McGill study on paid leave and other family friend practices worldwide.  You may be surprised where the US ranks.

Check out this cool inFLUgraphic as well.  It highlights our survey findings and provides other helpful information about managing absenteeism. You may also want to check out The Kronos Resource Guide: Flu Related Workforce Management Issues .

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am taking this blizzard seriously.  The picture on the right was taken in my hometown of Rockport, Massachusetts in the aftermath of the blizzard of '78.  A lot of people lost homes or had significant property damage. My two siblings and I were all home from college for winter break and trapped with our parents and one of my Dad's customers for five days.  My Dad was kind enough to take the guy in because he waited too long to leave work and the roads were impassable by the time he did.  Day one of being snowbound feels like an adventure.  Day five becomes a gulag - especially if everybody has to be on their best behavior to preserve that important customer relationship.

As we've written about before, extreme weather wreaks havoc on businesses as well as households.  I  live in a coastal town, in fact a town surrounded on all sides by water, connected to the mainland by a causeway.  This blizzard is not only expected to dump more than 2 feet of snow on us, but will also persist through two high tide cycles.  High winds and heavy precipitation at high tide are a combination that can have lethal impact for a town like ours.  I met with our Fire Chief this morning and talked to him about what his team was doing to prepare.  He's got to balance budget and public safety concerns - not an easy equation to balance in what's expected to be a storm of the century.

Assuming the power stays on, I'll blog video updates over the progression of the storm.  You'll find part 1  here , which will explain the Brigham's vanilla title above.  If you live in this storm area, I hope you're home and dry.  Governor Patrick has already ordered everybody off the roads by 4 PM.   Stay safe everybody!

The Super Bowl was also big news this week, and included some of our prior research about sports-induced absenteeism was covered in a variety of news stories:

Other Items of Interest This Week:

A better way to do performance reviews:

What not to say to a working mom:

Astounding graphic about paid maternity/paternity leave around the world:

Challenges of a temporary worker:

Kronos Posts, Articles and Media Coverage This Week:

Calgary Co-op Achieves New Levels of #Staffing Effectiveness with #Kronos:

Experience workforce innovation that works at our local customer conferences: #free #KronosLive

#Kronos Reports Exceptional First-Quarter Results; Workforce Management #Cloud Revenue Increases 106%

Values Drive Success and Innovation at Workforce Management Company, #Kronos. via @Forbes

Find out how best-in-class orgs are working smarter by leveraging ongoing #training in our #webinar with @Madtarquin.

Great article on @Forbes featuring our CEO @AronAin. Values Drive Success & Innovation at #WFM Company, Kronos.

Find out what 100 #dining #executives have to say about optimizing their workforce. Download the Pulse Report today:

KnowledgePass: Little Cost for Big Benefits! Find out how easy access to education can improve your productivity.

2/12 Webinar: Labor Strategies for Surviving the #AffordableCareAct.

Theatre Emotions via @KronosUK @andrewbusby

RT @GreggLean: Competitive Manufacturing in the UK

6 Considerations for Handling Complex Scheduling Challenges in Retail via @fmoreno44

RT @SmarterCafe: #Kronos customers are moving to the #Cloud. Here's how one did it.

RT @smartercafe: Tough for #healthcare pros to help patients while wrapped in #redtape.

Change is “sometimes” Good via @ToddBlackHRMS

Is Managing a Global Workforce the Next Big Challenge for Manufacturers? via @simonmacpherson @KronosUK

Today's guest post is courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby, The HR Bartender.  I met Sharlyn at KronosWorks last week in Las Vegas, where we had the opportunity to get to know each other a bit.  As Sharlyn notes below, and we've written about before, absenteeism is a significant and costly business issue around the globe.

During last week's KronosWorks2012 event, I had the opportunity to hear the latest data on absenteeism in the government and education sectors.  The data, presented by the Governing Institute and Center for Digital Education, puts the cost of public sector absenteeism in the billions (yes, that's billions with a “b”).

And part of that cost isn't just the benefits paid or the lost productivity. It's the cost of actually keeping track of employee absences. The Governing Institute and Center for Digital Education says that 52% of organizations rely upon a manual time and attendance system. They figure the average manager spends 1.5 hours per week focused on managing time and attendance.

Using that 1.5 number, let's say the average manager makes $20/hour. That means the estimated national annual cost for managing absenteeism (just the managing part) comes to over $880 million in the government sector and close to $2 billion in the education sector. I don't need to tell anyone that's a lot of money.

But as I was listening to the session, it occurred to me that the challenges with absenteeism in the public sector aren't exclusive to their industry. They're evident in every industry. For example, take my background in hospitality…managers were always dealing with an employee absenteeism issue. Now magnify that to the ten or twenty managers in the company. We'd have ten or twenty absenteeism issues. All costing the company money.

To illustrate my point, I wanted to do some more digging on the subject and ran across The Kronos Global Absence survey. If you haven't seen it, I hope you'll check it out. It confirmed that absenteeism is a global issue and shared the extent we're all in this together.

For example, the country with the largest percentage of employees calling in sick when they're really not is, of course, China at 71%. It only makes sense since the population is so large. But that really doesn't explain Australia with 58%, Canada with 52% and the United Kingdom with 43%. BTW - the United States came in at 52%. The best country? France at 16%.

Why do employees call in sick when they're not? Top reasons include stress and too much work.

What would prevent them for calling in sick?! You guessed it - flexible work schedules.

So we can see the direct path between flexible work, engagement and productivity. The absenteeism challenge extends far beyond one industry and one country. And the solutions are consistent between industries and countries as well.

If you're wondering about the time spent tracking time and attendance, the numbers appear consistent. Only half of employers are using an automated system. That means managers spend a lot of time manually monitoring their employee's time.

It makes me wonder. If companies are having challenges with employee absenteeism. And the answer is creating a more engaged workforce to increase productivity. Then it only seems logical to make sure that managers spend their time on activities that will create engagement (not on administrative tasks).

Fixing absenteeism is a manager's problem. But they can't fix it if they're bogged down in administrivia. Free up managers time so they can do what brings the most value to the organization.

What do managers do at your organization to manage unplanned absenteeism?

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